Old persons reject NHIF cover, cite frustrations

By Kurgat Marindany

Frustrated and feeling neglected, scores of aging people who were beneficiaries of Inua Jamii cash transfer programme in Olekasasi in Kajiado North have surrendered their NHIF cards after the Government allegedly failed to support their health cover.
When they were registered and issued with NHIF cards in November 2017, they were happy that they would benefit from free medical cover but their joy was cut short four months later.
They claimed Jubilee administration promised them during electioneering campaign last year that the government would contribute cash for their NHIF cover. The pledge, it seems, was hot air.
Looking dejected the senior citizens asked the officer in charge of Inua Jamii programme in the Sub County to keep the cards until the government starts remitting NHIF monthly contributions to activate the cards.
According to Kajiado North officer for Gender and Social Protection, Daniel Nkoonka, the initiative has not been funded since March 2018.
Nkoonka, who had a rough time with the old persons, asked them to be patient until the government starts remitting funds to allow them access free medical cover.
“I will talk with the area chief to keep the NHIF cards as we seek to know the circumstances surrounding the initiative which was a big relief for the elderly to access medication,” said the Social Protection Officer.
However, Nkoonka said more old persons who have attained the age of 70 years will be recruited to benefit from Inua Jamii Programme in order to get upkeep money, an initiative funded by the government.
He urged beneficiaries to use the money they get every two months to pay for their NHIF before the government releases funding for the same.
“My advice to the Inua Jamii beneficiaries is to pay for their NHIF on monthly basis to avoid missing out to get medication in either public or private health facilities when they are sick,” Nkoonka reiterated.
The officer was given the NHIF cards at Olekasasi Chief’s Camp in Ngong during a public baraza where the elderly persons expressed their disappointment with the government health cover initiative.
Joyce Mutheu aged 81 who returned her NHIF card told County Press that she turned away from Wama Health centre in Ongata Rongai a facility that she had been assigned when she was issued with the card.
Mutheu lamented she has been sickly and every time she goes to the facility she was told her card was not active since remittance has not been effected since March 2018.
“We are calling on government that gave us the promise to get medical cover for free to help us since the cash transfer programme money is not sustainable to pay for our health cover contribution,” pleaded Mutheu.
The elderly citizen vowed that she will only pick her NHIF card when the government has remitted money in order to enable her access medication.
Universal health cover is part of the government Big Four Agenda which forms part of service delivery for the next five years.
Inua Jamii cash transfer programme is an initiative under the Ministry of East Africa Community, Labour and Social Protection that seeks to provide cash transfers to elderly Kenyans above the age of 70 to enable them live dignified lives.
Some of the elderly persons who returned NHIF cards in Olekasasi said the government was not committed to support them.
Inua Jamii intiative consists of four government cash transfer programmes namely: Cash transfer Programme for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC), Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT), Persons with Severe Disabilities Cash transfer (PWSD-CT) and the Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP).
According to the Social Protection Services report ,the government cash transfer programmes have changed the lives of many among poor and vulnerable groups including older persons, orphans and vulnerable children and persons with severe disabilities.
Over 800,000 households are currently benefiting from the cash transfer programmes, a project that costs the government over 21 billion shillings annually.
The 2009 census projected the 2017 population of persons aged 70 and above at 973,000. Better healthcare has seen life expectancy rise even as most elderly people lack pension plans. It gets worse for those living in urban areas where inflation is high in a period when the social setup of relying on relatives is collapsing.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report of 2015 estimates life expectancy in Kenya at 63 years. When the cash transfer programme for those aged above 65 was introduced in 2012, the plan was to ensure that the country’s senior citizens do not slide into extreme poverty, hunger and consequent premature death.

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